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First Mama.  Then Writer.  Though, of late, the latter has consumed a great deal of time as I work to get things in order to potentially be ...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday Soliloquy 41: Why I Chose Homeschooling

These stories are about my life as I have seen, felt, and lived it. Most of the time I write about "my" children simply because they are mine and this is MY story. This story is in kind. This is about why I chose homeschooling. Since this is one of those good things about which my children's Daddy and I had much heated debate (he was against it in the beginning), it is my not-so-humble-opinion that my reasons for choosing homeschooling are the most important. I encourage my children to ask their Daddy why he chose homeschooling and decide what they think.  Of course, he's likely not to remember that he was pitted against me on this subject.... ahwell.  As for the rest of you... you probably don't know my husband and if you want to... well, probably tough luck.  lol
So... homeschooling.
When I was younger, I saw it as something only weirdos did. Why? Well, because my Mom's twin sister and her husband homeschooled my cousins and they were "weird".  In reality, they were sweet, smart, and very religious. My family has been bound under a generational curse pertaining to a belief of lack and another pertaining to a belief of worthlessness (definitely on both sides, so including my Mom's family). This is totally pertinent because these two curses have worked much trauma in both lines of my family. In my Mom's side, in particular, I can see very clearly among her siblings and her own behavior (mostly my Uncles and my Mom) lots of competition.
I have attempted to teach, my children, that competition is only ever encouraged by the devil. Yes, I believe, even competition against oneself. If you are trying to be better than you were, perhaps it is more appropriately phrased: I'm inspired to become better than I was. To say: I'm competing with myself so that I will be better than I was is putting yourself in opposition to yourself. Words are so powerful. I have used them far more poorly and unwisely than I ever thought I would or could. I pray my children will be and do better than me... because, as I repeat so often to them: "You ARE better than me!  Do better than me!"
My Aunt V and Uncle J homeschooled their six children. My Mom, seemed to seek opportunity to denigrate their choice. She cited their poor spelling as one example. There were many others. I choose not to remember them... not even sure why that one came so readily to my mind, but it did. The fact of the matter is one that my Mom either wasn't aware of or didn't want to acknowledge: there are gaps in any education. One of the largest and most horrible in that of public schooled children (I was one, so I'm speaking about myself here... as well as anyone else) is that of true socialization. That means that Public Schooled children don't have the ability to socialize naturally... with those of any age: both younger and older, the way that homeschooled children could potentially do with much greater ease.
Most of my life, I heard negative stuff about homeschooling. Basically, children who were homeschooled ended up being totally weird. They couldn't relate to their peers... or similar... which I now see and know to be nonsense.
And then I began to meet folks who I found out were homeschooled. And each one of them blew my assumptions, presumptions, and expectations OUT of the water.
Danny Mark Donny-Clark is one of the first kids I KNEW was homeschooled. And, as he compared himself to his siblings, he was the stupid one. Well, I must tell you, he was FAR from stupid! And his knowledge and intelligence was both deep and wide in fascinating ways. I will not claim to have depth or breadth in any of the ways the homeschooled young adults or adults I've known have had.
I also met his brother, Kerry. He was also amazingly intelligent, well-read, and had SO much experience in/of life already. He was younger than me when I met him (I was 24), but he'd LIVED so much more!
I met another homeschooler during my first year as a teacher. This time a young lady.
And then I began to see them... there was something DIFFERENT about homeschoolers. Now, I describe this difference as a purity of countenance. It happens to stick on LDS youth more than many, but even they tend to lose it by adulthood. But homeschooled adults don't seem to lose it. Or perhaps many do and I just haven't met them. That's very possible.
Every homeschooled person I met in my adult life has been fascinating to me. So much smarter than I think of myself (and I do like to think I'm smart), more widely read than me, more broadly understanding of so many things... they are just better human beings in many ways (and of course, in my opinion).
Somehow, though, prior to my marriage to my husband, I didn't consciously consider homeschooling for my own children. Sad, but true. This is a principle that is true among humans: we do not consider doing differently than we had done to us unless something glaringly obvious happens to us to teach us how wrong the status quo is or was. And then we may question and come to new conclusions.
My glaringly obvious incident is as follows: I was a teacher as Rosemont Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia. My first year in the role as sixth grade English teacher, I had one of the worst groups of children to come through in years. (I was informed of this by a few veteran teachers.) The whole experience was pretty horrible. But one in particular caused me to re-evaluate public school and turn away from it as an option for any of my children. Basically, I ended up in a tug-of-war with a very unruly child who was also very angry. He was supposed to be outside of the room and going to the office of a vice principal. He would not and we played tug-of-war with the door. He also pushed me in my preggie belly, which caused me great concern for my Ria (though I didn't know she was who she was at the time).
After that experience, I told Jessie we would not send any of our children to public school. I acknowledge that there may come a time when it could happen. I doubt it, but it could happen. I cannot foresee clearly enough to know much of anything about the future for sure. As I grow older and learn more, I learn that truth with increasing surety.
So, I began homeschooling Ria just as soon as I could. Probably around 6 months old, maybe earlier considering sign language. Sixth months old is when I incorporated flash cards of numbers and textured shape thingys she could hold while I repeated ad nauseam what the shape was called. Why did I do this?
Well, Ria's Daddy was completely and totally opposed to homeschooling. He was pitted strongly against it and thus, me. So, I felt it necessary to prove to him how awesome homeschooling would be for our child and future children so that he would stand with me, rather than against me.
I praise the Lord for a brief conversation I had with Sister Stubbs (mother of eight, I think) who I sat near at a Relief Society dinner. I think I had Ria with me. I'm sure we talked about all things pertaining to little ones and I'm sure I shared about how I was homeschooling or going to homeschool my children. However it happened, she shared with me the title: How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
I purchased that title just as soon as I could manage it and began working with Ria when she was 3. Sister Stubbs son had been reading before he was 4, so surely Ria would, too. I'm sure I did it wrong. Honestly. The way a Mother of 8, with her last child, would interact with said child is very different, I'm sure (given my own experiences), than the way I did with Ria. Too much pressure from me. Too ridiculous of expectations (which has long been a problem I have only recently realized - writing Feb. 13, 2015).
Ria was not reading before she was 4. But she was reading WHEN she was 4! And reading very well and independently before she was 5. By the time I had Tea (third daughter), Ria was able to reliably and correctly read most any children's book I might get from the library and she often did read to Kat. What a tremendous blessing to me!
This was the thing that turned my children's Daddy's heart to homeschooling and changed his mind.
I did all of the difficult first lessons with Ria. I got her to the end of the book, but not finished with it. Then I asked her Daddy to help me by doing a lesson with Ria. I didn't need the help.  I wanted him to see the proof in the puddin', as it were.  He had to read the directions in the beginning of the book to prepare himself. He did so reluctantly... he doesn't like to be told to do anything... especially not by me. But he did read the necessary instructions. Then he did a lesson with Ria.
He was flabberghasted. Our little adorable Ria was reading! She was probably at one of the lessons in which the transition to the completely normal roman alphabet is not complete, and he would've asked about that. And I would've shown him how the transition happens. Regardless of those details, her Daddy was so super impressed with how well Ria was reading that he became a homeschool advocate. I'm very glad for it and have been ever since.
More recently, he has expressed concern that our children are not doing more structured lessons. I have not attempted to share unschooling ideology with him because he would probably freak out more than he already has without the explanation. But I have, from the very beginning, felt magnetically drawn to that form of homeschooling. However, I think, at this point, that my goal is really unstructured homeschooling more than unschooling because the latter means the parents don't direct or tell the children what to do at all. I believe this is a form of neglect, in a way... and I disagree with it and will not implement it. However, we are very unstructured right now and have been since our move to Texas.
We have our homeschool books and supplies out and the children work with them regularly.  I did take my time with that because I desired to make sure to give my children adequate time to play on our land... to learn from the world around them! To learn how to enjoy themselves with each other. I believe these lessons are the most important for right now.
Basically, though, for my part, we are homeschooling our children because I know they are better than me. So I want to give them the opportunity to BE better than me. As a result of the experiences of my life, I believe that homeschooling affords the greatest opportunity to realize my hopes and dreams for my children. And it sure does feel nice to know that I am, in part, directly responsible for the sweet, smart, well-read, and healthy children that my children are and amazing human beings they are on their way to becoming! I would be even if they went to public school... it's just even more because we homeschool!

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